Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Birthday brews.

I have been very busy lately with family goings-on.  A lot of driving has been necessary, so, consequently, I haven't really been drinking.
I had one glass of wine last Friday night, which was my and Vinomaker's anniversary, an agreeable 2014 Chenin blanc from Vinum Cellars (Clarksburg AVA).  I had half a glass of beer at the Main Street Reunion car show on Saturday.  And on Sunday, in celebration of Thud's birthday, I had two bottles of beer; a bottle each of the Kona Brewing Company's Castaway IPA and Fire Rock pale ale.  Both beers were very pleasant and paired well with the tasty BBQ fare on my plate.  I'm not complaining, I'm having fun.
This evening, my family and I are planning on throwing an Earthquake Party: it is two years since a rather angry temblor shook the Napa Valley to its roots.  The little ones have suggested that we all eat jelly (Jello) and Pop Rocks.  Kids!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Main Street Reunion 2016.

This afternoon, my family and I spent quite a bit of our time oohing and aahing (and at one point I think I may have even slobbered a tad) over a fabulous collection of classic American cars.  Yes, the 2016 Main Street Reunion car show was held today in downtown Napa.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again, I love this event; great automobiles, happy people, fabulous music (lots of Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochrane) playing loud.  Love it!
At the conclusion of the event we all lingered in one particular area to watch, and listen, as many of the cars and trucks fired up their engines and rolled out into the greater Napa Valley.  Very impressive.
Vroom, vroom!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Family net work.

One of my least favourite vineyard operations - installing the bird netting on the white grape varieties - was made more bearable today due to the fact that Vinomaker and I were assisted by Thud, two Vinonieces and one Vinonephew.  It actually was a lot of fun; the little ones caught on quickly and were just the right height to apply the clothes pegs below the vines to secure the nets.
I had a quick taste of some secondary clusters, that I removed as I worked my way down the rows, and I have to say my little grape-babies have quite a bit of flavour already.  And the crop looks beautiful.  I can sleep soundly tonight knowing that my grapes are safe from hungry birds.  Thanks kids!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All aboard.

For lunch today Vinomum and I decided to take a trip up the valley on the Napa Valley Wine Train.  It is almost two years since we last rode on the wine train together.  Last time we were on the train we basically had it all to ourselves, as lots of visitors to the valley had cancelled their reservations due to the very recent, and rather large, earthquake (that had rattled a lot of nerves) in August 2014.
It was a perfectly gorgeous day for sitting back, enjoying the views and being waited on hand and foot - for three hours.  I did not really have anything to drink, well, just a small glass of Chandon bubbles, because I was driving.  But I sure ate a lot.  A very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Land Remembers.

Another new book arrived in the post today.  The book, The Land Remembers, is ostensibly a treatise on viticulture and terroir.  However, my first impression, after a quick shufty through the book, is that this book is more about one man's love affair with his very own garden of Eden at Indian Springs Ranch, Kenwood (Sonoma Valley).
George MacLeod and his family bought acreage back in 1974 without really knowing anything about winegrape growing, it seems.  But he brought plenty of passion with him.  If one is in doubt as to Mr. MacLeod's romance with the land, his inscription to me, at the front of the book, says,"To Vinogirl - Here is a true vineyard love story! With affection, George, grower".  Case closed.
The Land Remembers has some interesting sections on soil, topography and water, with accompanying charts and photographs - all the vine-geeky stuff I love.  There is a short chapter on 'Microbial Terroir' which has really piqued my curiosity.  I am really enjoying all the viticultural reading I have been doing of late.  This book is a lovely addition to my humble reference library.
The book was written with Arthur Dawson, and other contributors.  One of the contributors is yours truly: yes, I contributed a photograph of a smudge pot (page 79).  Ta da!  That's my 15 minutes of fame done.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Can the can.

I only bought this wine because Thud absolutely hated the whole concept of wine in an aluminium can.  My dear brother generally doesn't like any beverage in a can; he much prefers beer, soda and wine packaged in glass bottles.  He would can this can.
I didn't have strong feelings one way or another about this packaging initially, but now I love it.  The can (produced by the Ball Corporation, better known for its jars) is just so convenient, it's less weight than glass and the wine seemed to chill better in aluminium.  This can is possibly the perfect wine packaging for travelling, picnics, or just throwing one in your handbag.
Purchased at Whole Foods for $4.97 (which would make this 375ml can a $10.00 bottle of wine), the Underwood Pinot gris, from the Union Wine Co., in Oregon, wasn't the greatest wine, but it made a pretty decent apéritif for three people.  Searing lemon-drop acidity, which definitely knocked my 'Queen of Tart' crown off my head, dominated the palate, with a bit of Granny Smith-malic-acidy-zip thrown in for good measure. Clean, quite refreshing and with a hint of effervescence, I would try this wine again.  I even like Union Wine Company's use of the social media metadata tag of #pinkiesdown with which they aim to take the pretension out of wine drinking.  Fun.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Dr. Frank.

The next book, in my personal quest to understand more about the history of Vitis vinifera in the United States, is this book by Tom Russ: Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank.
Dr. Frank was by all accounts a bit of a poop disturber; in that he tried to shake up the New York state wine industry by repeatedly insisting that V. vinifera, i.e., European winegrape varieties, could thrive in the eastern United States.  It is in Dr. Frank's expertise as a viticulturalist, and his scientific approach to clonal selections, that I am mostly interested in.
Love wine-history.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Customer Disservice.

Yesterday was International Albariño Day.  Yay!
A few months ago I began my search for an Albariño that I might not have tried before. Then, just recently, in the Napa Register, I read of a new wine label, Eighty Four.  Eighty Four is a new project by Elias Fernandez and Doug Shafer (of Shafer Vineyards).  It just so happens that they produce an Albariño, so I thought it would be a good candidate with which to laud the upcoming festivity.
I called Shafer to find out if the Albariño was available for sale to the general public (sometimes these faddy wines aren't).  I was helped (and I say helped in the loosest possible sense of the word) by a woman who answered my questions with one syllable words only. Okey-dokey. I supposed she was just having a bad day.
I had a similar experience when I drove up to Shafer on my day off.  I wasn't greeted upon entering the winery although there was a person in the reception area.  The gentleman, at a desk staring into his computer screen, only acknowledged me when I ventured, "Hello" in my cheeriest voice.  I told him what I wanted, handed him my business card, I made some idle chit-chat and then paid for the wine (no inter-winery discount at Shafer, by the way).  Our entire interaction was conducted with having barely any eye contact at all.  He was that disinterested, very bizarre.  I suppose all Shafer employees continually have bad days.
The wine itself went something like this; the wine was very yellow in the glass; strong lemon and candy floss (cotton candy) on the nose; first sip was a little briny; the taste was of pineapple chunks and apple tarts (two sweets, candy, from my childhood).  And the wine was very tart, like it had been acidulated with citric acid.  Now, I consider myself the 'Queen of Tart' as I generally like an elevated acidity in my wine, but this was a little over the top.  Overall the wine, whilst not unpleasant, seemed a little tired. It wasn't oxidised, but all that candied stuff going on just made the wine seem a little over-worked.
An average wine, served with bad customer service, sigh.  I can't get my $28.00 back, but I can make sure that I never spend another penny of my hard earned wages at Shafer.  If one feels inclined to waste some time, one can read the Register article here.  Enjoy.  Or not.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Happy National Mutt Day.

Dogs, vines and wines - just a few of my favourite things (in that order, actually).  I have been posting a lot on Vinsanity about vines and wines lately, but not enough about dogs.  Or one dog in particular. So what better way to celebrate that today is National Mutt Day than by posting a photograph of the best poochie in the nation, Vinodog 2.
V2 has had a bit of a rough time the past 5 weeks - far too many trips to the vet - but she is on the mend now.  She's a great dog, very clever, bright and endlessly entertaining.  I could live without vines and wines, but I seriously could not live without dogs.
Happy National Mutt Day to every furry canine-companion in America!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A charming Riesling.

I love this wine (sorry, loved - it's all gone).  The Chateau Montelena, 2014 Riesling (Potter Valley AVA) was surprisingly moreish.  This Riesling had a beautiful, but subtle, nose of lemon and rose Turkish Delight with the faintest waft of petroleum.  The wine had a lemony-loveliness with the first palate-pleasing sip, which was followed by something decidedly tropical, then finished with a whisper of key lime. Oh, and the merest trace of residual sugar which gave the wine a wonderful mouth-coating appeal. Great balance, just delicious.
I have steered clear of Chateau Montelena wines for the longest time because I found them somewhat thin and uninteresting.  But Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena's new winemaker, has crafted (sorry, I couldn't help myself) a really, really nice domestic Riesling.  I am looking forward to see what Mr. Crafton does with the reds.
I am really starting to appreciate wines made from the Riesling grape.  It's taken me a while, but I am beginning to understand why most wine connoisseurs consider Riesling to be the greatest of all wines.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hello, veraison: Part 2.

Besides Syrah, Vinoland's Pinot grigio vines are also well into the process of veraison; berry colour is changing, sugars are accumulating, acid is decreasing.  This photograph also shows that lignification is taking place, another indicator of physiological ripening, as the shoots are changing from being supple and green, to woody and brown.  It'll very soon be time to apply the bird netting to Vinoland's white grape varieties.
On a related note, the Napa Valley's grape harvest for 2016 began yesterday at dawn.  Not as early as last year, but still early.  Just over 20 tons of Pinot Meunier were harvested at a vineyard in the southern end of Napa County which are destined to become Mumm Napa sparkling wine. I do hope that the folks at Mumm take these grapes and produce a 100% varietal sparkling Pinot Meunier with them (as they have in past vintages).  Pretty, please? Yum, yum, yum.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hello, veraison.

Whilst I was away; travelling, working, quaffing rosé, the Syrah vines have been busy doing their thing.  Veraison, the onset of ripening in the grapevines, is well on its way.  Valley wide, everywhere there are black grapes growing, grape clusters are increasingly conspicuous among the grapevine's canopy.  It's an exciting time.  Harvest 2016 is just around the corner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Frequent Filler Program.

The title of today's post is not a typo.  I did actually intend to type the word 'filler' as opposed to the word  'flyer'.  (However, I do take exception to the American spelling of programme.  Just sayin'.)
I haven't had a drop of wine for over two weeks now because I have been dealing with a nasty summer cold.  But on the way home from work tonight I stopped at the Napa Wine Company (NWC) to pick up a growler of something to pair with dinner.  My nose is better.
After an initial investment of $10.00 for the bottle, an ever-changing selection of wines-on-tap can be had for a mere $10.00 per refill.  The NWC growler-programme also comes with a 'Frequent Filler' punch-card: for every five refills the sixth is free.  To pair with tonight's chicken dinner I chose a rosé of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault.  Very, very nice.  And fun. And a truly genius idea.  Growl on.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Where in the US of A is Vinogirl: 2016?

I recently decided that I didn't know nearly enough about the history of viticulture in the United States, so I have been making an effort to find books that will give me a better understanding of how American winegrape-growing arrived at where it is today.  Not just the genesis of grape growing in California (think Saint Junipero Serra), but in other states also. Thomas Pellechia's Over a Barrel was a fabulous introduction to the homegrown wine industry in New York's Finger Lakes.  Of course the winegrapes grown in the northern part of the state of New York were not the European winegrape-bearing Vitis vinifera that I am familiar with.  No, in the early days, the native grape species grown in vineyards around the Finger Lakes region for wine production were predominantly Vitis labrusca and Vitis rotundifolia.  I have tasted wines produced from these two American Vitis species (anybody remember my Wines of the World class?) and at best the wines produced from those grapes provided entertainment value only.
So where am I going with all of this?  Well, I am travelling at present visiting family members in the Beehive state - yes, I am in Utah once again (and have been since last Thursday).  But I could be forgiven for thinking I was actually in Pennsylvania as I spent some time today hanging out in an Amish store.  And it was in the Apple Creek Amish Market, in Provo, where I spotted some bottles of grape juice made from native American Vitis species.  Yes, an Amish store in this bastion of Mormonism.  But it's not wine, it is just juice made from V. rotundifolia, the Muscadine juice, and V. labrusca, the Concord juice - from Arkansas. Very convoluted. Just thought finding these two juices in an Amish shop was amusing (not amusing enough to buy, though).  Besides, I would have thought I'd have found some mead in the Beehive State.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Overachievers in Oakville.

No sight of veraison in Vinoland yet, but up in Oakville (at TWWIAGE) the onset of ripening in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines has definitely begun.  It's not a question of commercial farming over amateur farming (me, being the amateur), it is quite simply a matter of climate - it's quite a bit toastier 15 miles north of Vinoland in Oakville.  The first signs of veraison in Vinoland is usually in the Syrah vines, so I will keep an eye on them.  It's an exciting time of year if you're a grape because Mother Nature has decided that you need filling up with sugar, yum!
Posts have been a bit scarce on Vinsanity as my family arrived from England last Thursday.  I have had 5 fun-packed, but tiring days.  I intend to do some wine related outings with Thud, so hopefully I will have some fresh material to write about.  Stay tuned.